I am taking pause from the spiritual side of things to address something that is very important to me. This post may help you understand the dilemma that people with mental illness are in. It is not only about managing symptoms and balancing medicine. It is also dealing with perceptions, stigma, and assumptions. Sometimes dealing with other people can be the hardest part of having an invisible illness. This post tries to explain what it can be like for someone who has a diagnosis. This isn’t a list of things I want you to know about mental illness. It is a list of things you need to know about people with mental illness.
Regret is a real thing. I feel regret about almost everything that I have ever done, even things that have turned out more or less OK Things could have been better. That one awkward things that was said or done during the event taints it and I think about it every day. Everything I have done I stained by mental illness so everything I have said or done I would like to do differently. I can’t go back and undo or redo things but I want to, everything.
Fear is a real thing. I live in constant fear. I am afraid that I might say something that might upset someone. I am afraid I might do something that will hurt or upset someone. I am afraid of reacting to something that someone else has done in such a way that the person is reminded that I have a mental illness. I am afraid or reacting in such a way that the person thinks I am coming unhinged. I am afraid of being by myself. I am deathly afraid of being around people.
Masks are real. I wear masks all the time. I wear masks at home to try to make people believe that everything is OK. I wear masks when I am in the public so that people think I am enjoying myself. I wear masks when I am at home to make people think that it was a good idea to stay home because I am not doing well. I wear masks when we go to other homes to avoid being the topic of conversation. I wear masks in other homes so we can stay longer. I wear masks when I am home alone to try to trick myself into thinking I am happy being alone. Yes, when I am alone. That is a thing. I wear masks at home to make everyone think I am happy with company. I am almost never not wearing a mask. I may have lost track of the wearer of masks.
I am almost always tired. Managing mental illness is like carrying glass balls, except you are carrying one more that you are able and they are covered in baby oil. It is exhausting to try to keep them all off the ground. It is exhausting to try to do the next right thing. I am paranoid that whatever decision that I make will be the wrong one so I over analyze everything. Every decision is a life or death crippling decision. I idea of upsetting, embarrassing or hurting someone that I love is so terrible that I am constantly thinking about what to do next, like really analyzing if I order “that” at a restaurant will that somehow be a mistake? Really.
Pain is real. I am almost always in pain. I have a health condition that is physical along with the mental illness. I hurt all the time. It is exhausting to be in pain all the time. I lose focus and screw the thing up. My physical condition impacts my mental one.
Quitting is real. I am not wimping out. If something is going too well I want out before it starts to go bad. If things aren’t going well I know what is going to happen, even if it doesn’t, and I want out. Things don’t turn out well so I don’t stick with plans. I love doing the thing and I really really want to do the thing, but it is going to turn out bad and I am going to hurt someone.
Self harm is real. No I haven’t hurt myself. I think about it all the time. It is always a possible solution to any problem. I have a low pain tolerance and an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and that keeps me from going there, but it is always a totally rational solution.
Paranoia is real. I feel like everyone, even people who don’t, know I have mental illness, are waiting for the wheels to fall off. It feels, not seems, it feels, like everyone expects the wheels to come off any second. It’s tangible. It’s tactile. I feel it. When I enter a room, they know I am screwed up and they are waiting for me to screw up. I try to hard to not screw up and bam. I screw up. Even when I don’t screw up, I look back and find the screw up in the event that went off perfectly.
Fear of emotion is real. I am terrified of feeling. If I am having a good day and start to feel happy I wonder if I am headed towards mania. I wonder how the next person I see is going to reaction to that mood. If am a bit under the weather I worry that I am on a down turn. Is this leading to the pit of depression. If I let out a sigh what will the people think. If I get angry about something what will people think. Is he coming unhinged? If I don’t feel anything will people think I am growing distant? Will they think the wheels are coming off?
Worry is real. Not my worrying but yours. I know you do. I don’t want you to, but you do, because I am broken and we don’t want me to be broken. I hate that people that care about me are more or less constantly worrying about me. I worry about them worrying and I break the thing. I drop one of the glass balls. I can’t make you not worry and you can’t make you not worry. It’s part of the bizarre train track that we live on.
The last thing that I ever want to do is to say or do something that will hurt someone or hurt me. Because I am constantly trying to not do that, things get bottled up and then something little happens and I do or say the thing that I don’t want to and I hurt people. I can’t not hurt people because I am trying to not hurt people.
That is my daily struggle. How do I not hurt people? How do I make people think it’s OK? How do I let people know it isn’t OK? Even when it is OK it isn’t OK because it might not be OK and that makes it not OK. I can’t fix it because it isn’t broken at the moment but I am sure it will be broken soon so what do I do when it breaks? That is my head all the time.
This is mental illness. This is being aware of your diagnosis. This is being aware of what you have done. This is knowing.
Assumptions are real. Many times people assume something is wrong. That often causes them to react in a way that the thing they think is happening, happens. I am not the only one that sabotages the thing when there isn’t anything wrong.
What do I want people to say or do. Mostly I just want a hug and people to know I am going to screw up the thing. I can’t help it. Hug me and know I am trying. I am failing, but I am trying. I am not wanting a free pass. I want to be called on it when I start to screw up the thing. I want to be reminded that I asked to be called on it when I get mad that you called me on it. I want understanding that sometimes the wheels fall off. I try to keep them on but my hands are fully of oily glass balls. Ask me if I am messed up. Tell me it seems like X is happening. Something is probably happening, but it usual isn’t X until I think you think it’s X.
What I really want is one day when none of this is happening. Just one day.
Most days I am having a good day, believe it or not. Most of the time I am happy. However, everyday is this blog. Every day is like this. Life is good, except I am about to screw it up.